Liang Jing: Wen Jiabao Saves China

Overseas political commentator Liang Jing just wrote the following essay, thanks to Dr. David Kelly for the translation:

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was unquestionably the great hero of the earthquake disaster. Coming forward in defiance of public opinion, firmly and unhesitatingly resolving to rescue more people, and, under the global media spotlight, the charm of his sincerity and resolute personality brought the hearts of hundreds of millions of people together, saving the image both of the government and of China as a whole, and avoiding a political and social catastrophe triggered by the natural disaster.

It is not without justification that Chinese intellectuals draw a connection between the Wenchuan earthquake andthe “wrath of Heaven.”[1] Since the Jiang Zemin era, the privileged classes of the CPC bureaucracy have been letting the good times roll. They have been kicking up their heels, preening and congratulating each other, getting wealthier year by year, constantly moving to better housing, and callously indifferent to the people’s suffering and death. The number of people China who die or are disabled every year due to government dereliction of duty and official corruption cannot be less than the Wenchuan earthquake. The voices of many victims are however repressed by the bureaucrats, who not only lack any capacity for self-examination, but keep raising their parade of empty words to new peaks. They haul the big tiger banner of “patriotism” and use all kinds of image engineering to gratify themselves, while filling their pockets.

Hu Jintao has some inkling of all this, but it seems now that, he has admitted his inability to change fate, adopting a policy of marking time. He makes constant noises about being “people based,” but in fact, the message he gives the bureaucracy is still “power based.”

The bureaucracy has grasped from his empty talk, and from the great number of incompetent cadres he has promoted from his “Youth League faction,” that the “scientific concept of development” and the “Three Represents” amount in fact to a game of “governing the country with empty talk.” They instill confidence that the game can continue, at least for the term of Hu’s tenure.

Wen Jiabao’s was intelligent in recognizing that, given a earthquake of this magnitude, if disaster relief was dealt out in accordance with the “power based” rules of the game, there would be incalculable political and social consequences; some information revealed by the mainland media strongly supports Wen’s judgement. Apart from issuing some empty instructions, senior officials simply didn’t know what to do, and high-ranking officers still dared to bargain with the Prime Minister even after the army proved unable to reach the disaster area. If Wen had not used the enormous pressure of the media and public opinion, there’s no saying how long the relief may have been delayed by corrupt and incompetent bureaucrats and generals. And if the process of disaster relief was opaque, the Chinese people and the outside world would have been let down, and people made to feel the Government wasn’t making every effort. As the truth about the disaster areas continued to spread, an uncontrollable political and social crisis would have become inevitable.

In fact, while China is striving to relieve the disaster, a strong political undercurrent is also surging. Everyone can see very clearly that there was no lack of human factors behind the heavy casualties people suffered. That so many students were casualties in the quake was because school buildings did not meet the seismic standards they should have. And the bureaucracy should long have known that higher seismic standards should be used for school buildings in the earthquake centre, which has always been a zone prone to powerful earthquakes.

A more explosive issue is whether predictions of the earthquake were covered up due to political interference, thus losing opportunities to save many lives. In this connection, although the Government has formally dispelled the rumours, few believe that the it is telling the truth.

An article by Li Shihui, a staff member the CAS Key Laboratory for Mechanical Engineering Geology, stated that Geng Qingguo an earthquake specialist, based on links between droughts and earthquakes in Chinese history, successfully predicted the Haicheng Earthquake of 1975, the Tangshan earthquake of 1976, but was in the end excluded by the bureaucracy. This time, Geng Qingguo once again accurately forecast an impending earthquake in the Aba region where Wenchuan is located.[2] Unfortunately, the prediction was once again ignored.

The Wenchuan earthquake has been an important watershed in contemporary Chinese politics. Bureaucrats who use empty words and an official front to fob people off will be accepted with even more difficulty by the Chinese people. Beleaguered China is calling for a large number of new politicians, game to face the people, the media, and the world, because not only do they dare to face reality, but their own souls as well.

[1] [Trans.) 天谴 “The wrath of heaven”: In ancient China the Divinity (Heaven) was believe to respond to injustice in the temporal world.

[2] [Trans.] See

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